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Suspension and Brakes

What I Concentrate On

Suspension

The DSR is no sport bike, no road race bike, and no motocross bike. It’s just what I’ve always wanted. A dual sport bike that I can ride to and from dirt roads while exploring areas I could not ride before. Like life it’s a compromise being much heavier than a dirt bike and isn’t nearly as razor sharp in corners as a track bike. Yet for what it’s intended it’s just right for me. The DSR is very well balanced and the Showa suspension is excellent and the seating and standing positions accommodate my 5-8 frame and 30” inseam well. My primary focus on my bikes has always been brakes, suspension and tires. Sure I love power, but experience showed me that power without the ability to use/control it doesn’t mean crap. Ohlins was my preferred suspenders of choice, Brembo calipers and master cylinders my kings, HRC racing brake pads a must have and Dunlop slicks my shoes of choice.

The very first thing I did before picking up my DSR from SF Moto was to have them install new tires on my bike. Even though the tires had plenty of tread left, checking the date stamps revealed the tires were 6 years old which is understandable for a four year old bike. I opted for a more aggressive style of dual sport knobbies but those that handle well on pavement too.

When I took the bike home I set the static sag, sag, rebound and compression to my riding style based on Showa’s guidance. For my riding right now I prefer a plusher feel which is how I have my suspension set up. But I prefer my sag to be a bit less than normal about 10% less at least on the road. Once I get more time off road then I will adjust them again.

I have no clue why Showa does not install a stanchion measuring band on their forks! I’ve depended on those many times. Formerly I just used a zip tie, but after Dan told me that they cause stiction I stopped using them and went to bands when none were installed by a manufacturer which is almost never.

I added a fork stanchion measuring band to adjust my forks.

I found that two clicks either way on rebound tend to affect the damping more than one click on compression. I noticed that the high speed compression over sharp edges or pot holes is very good even though there is no separate adjustment for high speed compression. During street cornering the forks provide excellent feedback from the tires. This in combination with the lack of sound and vibration sends a completely unique and tactile feedback through the bars.

Because the handlebars block the adjustment of sag with a socket I use a ratcheting box end wrench to adjust the fork sag. And I have marked those adjusters with a paint pen so that I can count the number of revolutions accurately. My memory is not what it used to be.

The rear Showa remote reservoir shock is also high quality with a remote reservoir that dissipates heat well by separating the oil from the main shock body. Rebound, compression and preload are all adjustable.  Unlike the forks I found that a single click on either the compression or rebound results in a difference that can be felt when riding. So play with it and adjust those to the settings that suit your riding and body weight. The one thing I don’t like about the rear shock is the stepped spring adjustment. I prefer a threaded shock collar rather than steps. It just makes for finer adjustment levels. And on the DSR the finned controller is very close to the shock spring ramp making it difficult to grab. I purchased an 8mm 8” punch to adjust the spring tension using the punch and a rubber mallet. I could only do so when the bike’s rear wheel was unweighted. It becomes a hassle when I want to take my girlfriend for a ride and have to jack the bike up to add two ramps of preload on the shock; and then adjust them back for when I’m riding solo. I may decide to install an Ohlins shock with a remote preload adjuster to make things easier….but later.

When I have read/watched ‘reviews’ of any bike and someone complains about the forks bottoming out or being too stiff/soft/take your pick I often ask myself “I wonder if they adjusted the suspension for their weight, riding style and where they’re riding.” I’ll bet my next paycheck is the answer is “No” Why bitch or nick pick about something you don’t adjust when there are adjustments! Like a person who complains there isn’t enough leg room or their feet can’t reach the pedals in the driver’s seat of a car without ever adjusting the seat’s fore/aft position. I chalk up those comments to user error. If something is adjustable adjust the damn thing and don’t bitch until you do. Just doesn’t make sense!

My experience adjusting the suspension on my bikes can be attributed to learning from the largest Ohlins dealer in the world who also happens to be the former Crew Chief for Erion Racing. Dan has forgotten more than I’ll ever know about suspension. And I could not be more grateful for his help.

I ran across a very good post for those interested in learning more about suspension settings for their own bikes. It’s a great start to begin to understand static sag and sag along with why adjusting your bike for those settings is important.

Brakes

I was not familiar with J Juan brakes before buying my DSR. I’m a Brembo guy so I was a bit worried that the brakes would not live up to my past experience. I was really pleased when I noticed that all Zeros come with steel braided lines. Since I’m an old timer who has not kept up on smoker bikes in 20 years maybe all bikes now come with steel lines. But back in the day it was normal to have to replace the rubber OEM lines on most bikes. Once I got the bike home I took out the pads and cleaned them with Brake Kleen as well as the rotors. I then bedded in the brakes using my normal process. I was pleasantly surprised with the feel, modulation and power. Since my most recent experience was on tarmac I tend to be a front braker and found the front single non floating 320mm brake rotor is great. The rear seems a little weak for a 419 pound bike on the road, but fine on the dirt. The front lever is adjustable for reach which I appreciate. My only wish would be for an adjustment for the bite point on the brakes. But now I’m just nit picking since it’s what I use to have.

Regen Braking

The regen braking even set to its highest level is much weaker than I have on my Sur Ron and was stronger on the Cake at level 3. For casual riding it is fine, but I would like more regen or perhaps it is because I am accustomed to stronger engine braking since my last smoker bike was a 1000cc vtwin. Imagine driving/riding your car/bike and when you want to slow down you push in your clutch (although everything is automatic now for cars) and the vehicle coasts with little to no resistance. Yep it almost feels as if you are freewheeling when in max regen on the DSR. I can certainly feel ‘something’ slowing me a tad, but not enough for my tastes.

Since my left hand is free I’d like to suggest that Zero offer a left hand lever that could control the amount of regen the motor offers the rider. The more one pulls the lever toward the bar the stronger the regen. And if I don’t want to use it I don’t have to do so.

Because the amount of regen is so low I find myself getting off the throttle much sooner when I’m on city streets to gently slow the bike. I have no idea how much energy is being returned into the battery other than the graph on the lower right portion of the dash.

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